Increasing teacher reflective practices across a science department

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Montana State University - Bozeman, Graduate School


There are very few programs to assist veteran teachers to become more reflective about their practice. This project sought to assess the effectiveness of this work in expanding individual teacher reflective thought, in increasing departmental collaboration and reflective discussion, and in instilling positivity and empowerment in its participants in a small science department at an urban public school. Six teachers at various points in their careers, teaching grades six through twelve, were exposed to the basics of reflective thought and its relationship to teacher practice through professional development. This effort was supported in a number of ways: by weekly electronic journaling, incorporating both free-form reflections and reflections on predetermined prompts; through teacher-investigator guided reflections of classroom observations; and email-based peer reflective discussions about videotaped lessons. Changes in teacher reflectivity were measured in five ways: an analysis of pre-project interviews designed to assess and categorize initial levels of reflective judgment, a comparison of pre- and post-project surveys designed to target both individual and group reflective practice in the classroom and across the department, evaluation of teacher electronic journals over five weeks, and analysis of teacher-investigator and peer reflective discussions. The data suggested that teachers did not increase either the depth or frequency of personal reflection. Reflective practice, while apparently desirable, was hampered by two main issues: a consuming concern about the inability to develop successful classroom management strategies to handle minor issues effectively and a mistaken belief that academic rigor involves only the increase in the level of content presented, without concern for actual student understanding. As both these issues place the burden of resolution of the achievement problem in someone other than the reflector (i.e. the teacher), these themes represent an anti-reflective strain across the department. While group reflection increased slightly due to teacher participation in the project, surface level thought, mainly dominated by minor difficulties with management and engagement, persisted. While neither goal was achieved, this project served as a thorough investigation of the teachers' current mindset and will provide a strong foundation for future professional development.




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